Tourists swarm to Florida for its sandy beaches and warm seas. They visit theme parks, hotel resorts, golf courses and major cities. But, in the fishing village of Carrabelle in northern Florida, there is a rather different tourist attraction.
In a state where so much is geared around sheer size, Florida is also home to the world’s smallest police station.
For over 50 years, Carrabelle has fought crime from a police station no larger than a phone booth. Home to just over 2,800 people, the small town in the Florida panhandle hasn’t had the same law enforcement demands as other American places, and improvised to best service its small police department.
Constructed in March 1963, the police station was originally conceived to stop tourists from using police money to make long-distance phone calls. It might seem like a counterintuitive strategy – build a phone booth to stop people using the phone – but it worked.
Before 1963, the Carrabelle police phone was located in a call box on a street corner, and tourists would regularly use it to make unauthorized calls. Even when it was police using the phone, it was susceptible to the elements and officers were often drenched while taking calls in Carrabelle’s tropical climate.
The village’s lone telephone employee, Johnnie Mirabella, joined forces with Wilburn ‘Curly’ Messer, the deputy sheriff, to solve both problems with one solution.
The phone dial was removed from the new box, meaning tourists couldn’t use it, and the admittedly small structure was still enough to protect officers when they needed to use the phone. It was not immediately made into a police station, however, was elevated to the lofty rank of station for apparently performing so well.
The world’s smallest police station was born.
“[The station] worked well and increased the efficiency of the two man police force,” the Carrabelle History Museum explains. “They could park the patrol car in the shade, do required paperwork, listen for the phone while watching for speeders and other suspicious characters.”
It’s not all been plain sailing for the police station. In fact, the station itself has been the scene of a number of crimes, largely a result of its fame. These range from the phone being removed and the station being vandalized, to the site being sprayed with bullets.
It means that the booth has had to be replaced over the years, and the new booth is now more of a monument than an actual office, with an internal display of the station’s history.
Still, in a village known primarily known for its fishing location, sitting on the Gulf of Mexico, Carrabelle also boasts the world’s smallest police station – with a proud bench alongside it.